Chiang Mai: Our Home Away from Home

Chiang Mai has been one of our favorite stops along the journey thus far. The food is delicious and inexpensive, the people are friendly, there are temples at every turn, and it’s a beautifully colorful place! But more than that, Continue reading

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Hanoi, Mateys!

When we arrived in Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital city located in the north, locals couldn’t believe how long we were staying.  “Two weeks?  Why are you staying here for so long?”  It wasn’t that they hated living there.  It’s simply that Hanoi is not known for sightseeing.  More often than not, travelers backpack through the city on their way to Sa Pa or Ha Long Bay.  We spent one day out of the two weeks visiting Ha Long Bay (one of the New7Wonders of nature), which was supposed to be a three-day excursion but was cut short due to Continue reading

14 Tips For Having the Most Romantic Valentine’s Day Ever!

Last Friday morning we officially said our “see ya laters” to Cusco and began the first portion of the journey that would lead us to Chile.  It was bittersweet to leave the first stop on our RTW journey, but we were very excited for what awaited us!  The itinerary went as follows: drive with friends of our host from Cusco to Puno (an estimated five hours), and then from Puno to Tacna (an estimated ten hours), the southernmost city in Peru.  Everything was planned a little bit last-minute as we had a busy week prior with our friends Dan and Nichole visiting.  We had nothing planned after that but knew we had to make our way from Tacna across the Chilean border to Arica.  That gave us almost entire week to make it down the coast of Chile to the capital of Santiago, where we will fly even further south to Puerto Montt this upcoming Friday.  Now, back to us leaving Cusco.  We had absolutely no idea that one of the craziest days of our lives lay ahead of us on the only day we had actually planned out over the course of the week. As you also know, Saturday was Valentine’s Day.  To help capture the essence of the events that followed our embarkation on Friday, Karen and I are happy to present to you the simple process for creating an unforgettably romantic date chock-full of cupid’s arrows.

Tips For Having the Most Romantic Valentine’s Day Ever:

1.  Hire a private driver to take you from Cusco to Tacna. Make it to Puno (the first stop on the way) and hear your driver tell you that you are ahead of schedule and only have six more hours to go.

2.  While in Puno, treat your lady friend to some ice cream and enjoy it on a sunny day in the central plaza.

3.  Take the “shortcut” from Puno to Tacna, which will “save time” getting you to your destination.

4.  Roll through an assortment of very small mountain towns, in which every person gives a completely different answer as to the length of time remaining on your journey.

5.  Drive through “detours” on the route, which include fording streams (Oregon Trail style) that are deep enough to allow water into the car and begin soaking your feet.  Watch as local llamas are wading through the waters with their legs completely covered.

6.  Every hour or so, ask your driver how much time is remaining and receive the same answer of “about three hours.”

7.  Drive up to the top of a snow-covered mountain at 14,000 feet, drive your station wagon through the cake-like mud and putter out in a giant water-filled crater.

8.  Try various strategies for over an hour to get the car removed, only to soak through every pair of dry socks that you have, lowering your body temperature enough to begin shaking.  Teeth chattering yet?  Perfect, you’re setting the mood nicely.

9.  Run out of feasible options (with no cell phone service in the mountains) around 1:30am, and huddle together using your dog’s body as a temporary blanket.  Turn off the car to go to sleep and wait for help to arrive in the morning.

10.  Within the hour, awake to hear a truck coming up the mountain and yell “CAR!”

11.  Get towed out by the truck, only to begin silently weeping as your car battery stalls.  Watch the battery turn over just in time to catch up to the truck.

12. Drive over a rock plateau and get stuck again after the truck has already left.  Watch as your wife spends Valentine’s Day chiseling rock from underneath the car at 4am.

13.  Take one more cat nap in the car before cruising into Tacna just 12 hours after your estimated arrival time.

14.  Remember that you’re together, everyone is safe, and everything will be all right!

In our minds, we had a timeline for how and when we would arrive in Chile.  However, God’s timeline was much different than our own!  But the most amazing part is what ensued after the madness.  We arrived in Tacna fairly early on Saturday morning.  From there, we met a driver (he also happened to be a police officer) who was not only able to get us across the border to Arica with Sofi’s crate, but he even made a call to a friend to find out every detail we needed to get Sofi into Chile.  He drove us to a couple different offices to get the necessary paperwork to make the following day a breeze.  On top of that, this man introduced us to another friend who ended up driving us from Arica to Iquique, our second stop in Chile.  And, wouldn’t you know it, this gentleman was a bus driver who had permits for securing Sofi’s crate to the top of his car.  God’s timeline was certainly different than our own, but it was perfect.  Everything happens for a reason!

So Many Smells (A Look at Cusco from Sofi’s Perspective)!

What is that smell?  Who is this stranger carrying my crate?  Where are Mom and Dad?    These were some of the many thoughts that bounced between my floppy ears last week.  After I was carried out of the long pointy car that flies in the sky, the strangers brought me to an open area to wait.  I sat there until they moved my crate towards a big door and…I SAW MOM AND DAD!  I was beginning to think that the long pointy car was my new home, so I was wagging my tail like a propeller when I saw them.

After we were reunited, we jumped into a car and drove away.  “Oh no,” I worried.  “The last time I got into a car I ended up in the sky!”  Fortunately, we just drove to my new home where I share a room with my parents (which is way cooler than it sounds).  I was super tired from all of the unexpected events that took place, so I went to bed and dreamed about running down the streets of my new home.

I awoke the next morning refreshed and with heightened senses.  Holy smells!  My family had moved before, but this was unlike anything else.  Let me tell you a few tails (pun intended) about my experiences.

The first thing I noticed is that the other dogs don’t wrestle with me.  I used to wrestle all day long with my golden retriever friend, Buster.  But now, every time I try to wrestle with new friends they either growl at me or run away. Plus, they eat garbage all the time!  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I like garbage too.  But I mostly eat it because I’m bored.  I should really share some of my Pro Plan with them.  They don’t know what they’re missing!

Did I mention that there are some creatures here that I’ve never seen before?  On one of our first days here, I walked around town and saw a big pink dog who snorted a lot.  Mom told me that this dog’s name was Pig. When I went up to greet her she squealed and ran away.  I guess she was in a hurry to get somewhere!  I also met a big black and white creature with horns.  I was walking down a dirt road when we first saw him.  He didn’t speak canine and I’ve never seen anything like him before, so I tentatively approached.  We sniffed each other and I thought things were going well until he decided to lower his head and point his horns at me!  Just like me in my crate every morning after Mom and Dad get up, I shot outta there.  My last crazy encounter was with a little human.  Sometimes I’m unsure of how to interact with them because they don’t pet me, so we typically stare at each other until I bark out of confusion. So, when I met one on a walk in the town, I didn’t want to give a bad impression and start things off on the wrong paw.  This tiny human was sitting on a small plastic car with wheels. He saw me and stopped in his tracks. The stare down began. Instead of barking at him, I decided to mix things up and give him a friendly lick on the face (our version of a handshake), and do you know what he did? He scrunched up his face and water droplets starting coming out of his eyes! Why are the little humans so hard to understand?

Lastly, I am getting to go on some really fun rides.  I recently rode in a bike car with no windows.  Mom and Dad kept calling it a “tuk tuk.”  For my doggie friends reading this post, believe me when I say that my jowls were flapping in the wind without putting my face out the window!  Jackpot.

And that’s just the beginning.  Who knows what tomorrow will bring!  Every time I set my paws on the ground outside, a new adventure begins.  Whether I’m stepping in a bucket of peppers at the market or running up the mountains behind our house, I’m always having fun.  I hope you are, too!